A patentable subject matter refers to the standards set forth by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). These standards are set for a patent application in order to receive patent protection. Also, the USPTO law defines patentable subject matter as: “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, the machine, manufacture, or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”
Moreover, an invention must satisfy 2 criteria in order to qualify as patentable subject matter. One of them is statutory and the other one is judicial. The requirements are:
- Firstly, the subject matter of the invention must fall under the category of the machine, process, manufacture or composition of matter.
- Secondly, the subject matter must not fall within the exceptions recognized by the court; that are, physical phenomena, laws of nature, and abstract ideas.
Also Read: Things to Do Before Patenting Something
Patentable Subject Matter: Terminologies
You must understand the difference between what patentable subject matter is and what isn’t. For this, you are required to know about certain key terms used. They are:
Utility patent preserves the working and use of a particular product or invention. It includes process, machine, products, or matter composition.
Moreover, they are meant for the invention having a useful purpose, for example, a new engine for cars.
A Utility Patent lasts for 20 years from the date of filing, if you file it after 8 June 1995.
The design patent deals with the visual shape or design upgrade to the article of manufacture. It describes a new ornamental feature of the item and protects the way how an invention looks.
The design patents get a time period of 15 years from the date of issue if you file it after 13 May 2015.
For example, you can attain a utility patent for a new function of the watch and you can also attain a design patent for it if you made any new ornamental changes.
You may obtain a Plant Patent if you discover or reproduce (through cross-pollination) a new variety of the plant. The plant must not be present in any uncultivated state.
A Plant patent also has a lifespan of 20 years from the filing date, if filed after 8 June 1995.
You must decide the type of Patent application if you are done with the type of Patent.
Composition of matter:
It is defined as a mixture of material made up of two or more different materials and is patentable. In other words, it is a patentable product of 2 or more substances. It may be a chemical or mechanical mixture and the substances may be gases, liquids, solids, or even powders.
An inventor files this patent application when he has an upgrade or improvement made to any previously existing patent. The improvement must be new and useful. The existing patent is called the dominant patent and the improvement is called the subservient patent.
It is a series of steps or methods designed to achieve the end product or demand. However, the end result is not likely to be an invention. Thus, it is not required that only the end product can be an invention, a process may also be an invention.
Also Read: Design Patents 101 – Introduction
Patentable Subject Matter: Criteria
There is a complete change for your patent application to get rejected if the invention does not qualify as patentable subject matter according to the USPTO and court. Your invention must meet 5 basic criteria for patent eligibility in order to qualify as patentable subject matter, which is:
- It must be a new and useful machine, manufacture, process, or composition of matter. Also, it excludes patents on laws of nature or universal phenomena.
- The utility is another criterion. The subject matter must be useful. However, it only applies to utility patents.
- The invention must be novel.
- You must claim a non-obvious invention; it means which means the purpose must not be just a logical extension of an already patented invention.
- The final criterion is about not disclosing the invention to the public before filing the patent application.
Also, read Patent Search Types – ‘The Major Eight’
Some of the examples of Patentable Subject Matter are:
- Sports gear
- Computer hardware
- Fabric structures and designs
- Business processes and methods
- Computer software with a ” concrete, tangible and useful” outcome
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